A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
If you've come this far, I invite you to come a bit further and wade around with me in a cathartic pool exploring the details of my history - a personal project that will expand as I find more pictures along the way.
SPECIAL MAKE-UP EFFECTS
Here you will find an autobiographical history of my early and career in special effects and makeup.
I made a lot of rubber and sprayed a lot of blood. It was a lot of fun.
A BRIEF BACKGROUND
When I was twelve years old, living in Austin, Texas, and not knowing how to break in to the movie business, I asked my parents if I could volunteer at a local community theater to learn how to work backstage.
They made some calls on my behalf, and before long I was welcomed into my first second family at Zachary Scott Theater. I worked every show, every season, for the next five years.
Zachary Scott Theater
From seventh grade I worked five nights a week, taking the city bus half an hour into downtown, and bumming rides home however I could. I was stage-managing by the time I was fifteen, and in that environment began building contacts for a film career - and I can't imagine a better, more supportive environment in which to grow up.
At the same time, I was making an impression on the small group of State employees at the Texas Film Commission by pestering them constantly with phone calls, wanting to get my foot in the door in movies. In order to shut me up, they started recommending me to art departments and other small productions who needed free help, and I ended up doing odd jobs on semi-local movies like A PAIR OF ACES with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristopherson and the odd-bird Merchant Ivory production THE BALLAD OF THE SAD CAFÉ.
As I got into High School I started working on more and more professional stage and film productions, worked as a spotlight operator at many different theaters in town, building props for community television shows, did illustrations for the newspaper, built sets for trade shows, learned to work as rigger and stage hand for big touring rock shows and running lights for smaller ones - basically whatever I could do to keep myself from working behind a Schlotzky's counter. It mostly worked. And I mostly got my homework done, too.
During this time I also found two makeup effects mentors, both students of legendary makeup effects godfather Dick Smith. Paul Smith and David Whitley both took me under their respective wings and taught me more than I ever hoped I would learn. I owe my foothold into understanding makeup effects to their incredible patience and generosity.
So that I might prove myself a champion of humility - here, I embed forever my very first special effects video reel. It was cut tape-to-tape by my buddy Andy who worked the graveyard dub shift at the video house next door to my little FX shop.
I was about eighteen, which makes this 1992, and features music I wrote and recorded in high school. Yeah. If you are reading this much about my life, I owe you transparency.
It is epically embarrassing, I'm pretty certain you won't be able to endure much of it. Captured off VHS!
Art of Illusion was my first effects company started with friends right out of high school. We rented a warehouse space in downtown Austin and set up a miniatures and effects shop for us all to work in. I ended up living in that shop on a cot for a while. Good times.
AND THEN I STARTED WORKING
After a short stint building dentures in a dental lab to make ends meet, I got my first professional makeup effects gig on TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION in 1993, and for the next several years I managed to stay very busy.
After CHAINSAW I spent some time on my friend Andy Cockrum's movie A TROLL'S BRIDGE, and also connected with ORIGIN SYSTEMS, the local video game company responsible for ULTIMA.
That's me swinging the chainsaw here, doubling Robbie Jacks!
I worked for Origin in the very brief and unique period in which game designers decided to shoot live action sequences for cinematic story beats - more advanced than 2D but not as expensive as 3D. I built props and armor for several WING COMMANDER and CRUSADER games. In addition, I also did pyrotechnics, fire and explosions, for those shoots because, well, why not? In the early nineties it was easy to get a High Explosives License in Texas. By some miracle, I still have all my fingers.
My first job in a key position with a Los Angeles crew was SPACE MARINES, which we shot in Dallas.
While working on location, I met a magazine writer named Anthony Ferrante who had come out to cover the movie, and we struck up a friendship that would last many years.
Anthony was also working as a makeup effects supervisor in L.A. and once the movie wrapped, he pushed really hard on iconic horror director Brian Yuzna to consider me for a movie called THE DENTIST. I sent in some designs from Texas , flew to LA to interview, and he decided to take a chance, giving me a number of key effects on the movie.
Original Goldfarb design for The Dentist
Final Goldfarb (Earl Bowen) prosthetic, and thanks to Anthony, my first Fangoria cover!
Sharing the workload with several amazing Los Angeles makeup artists like Kevin Yagher and Christopher Nelson that Anthony brought to the table, I was working alongside my idols for the first time. I learned more in those couple of months working seven days a week and sleeping on Anthony's couch than I'd learned in my entire life by exponential values, and the decision to move from Austin to Los Angeles was inevitable.
In continuing to honor my pledge, I present to you the video effects reel that I moved to Los Angeles with in 1996. Thank goodness there is some evolution evident.
At this point, however, I was so young I still didn't know I had no idea what I was doing.
It doesn't actually start showing anything until about 1 min, and who knows why I split it into three parts. It's much too long, and I was told so at the time, but now I'm quite grateful for the record.
LOS ANGELES, 1996
I moved to L.A. in June, driving my beat up '86 Isuzu Trooper along I-10 from Texas, and was fortunate to find work quickly. First building custom props at Global Effects, then in the mold shop and on set for Greg Cannom Creations on STEEL and EIGHT HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG, and then ended up on a big Universal movie called VIRUS at Eric Allard's ALL EFFECTS. While there, I also got to moonlight on ALIEN 4, but I'm uncredited.
I was hired in the fabrication department by another idol, Bud McGrew, and was given the task of building maquettes for two of the key robotic creatures, Goliath and "the 8-footer".
I then moved into the "flesh department", which
was headed by Brent Armstrong, and we built hundreds of silicone fleshy bits to decorate the mechanical robots. We moved the operation to Wilmington, NC, and spent five months on set working with Jamie Lee Curtis and director John Bruno.
The first creatively meaningful thing I made in Los Angeles.
When I returned to L.A. I continued to work at a variety of shops, but settled for a while as shop supervisor for an inspiring surrealistic artist by the name of Screaming Mad George. He had a brilliant mind, was a natural teacher, and I will be forever grateful for his patient mentorship. Working with him sparked a total revolution in my understanding art and form, and was one of the greatest learning experiences my professional life.
I worked with George through dozens of interesting jobs from commercials to music videos and Marilyn Manson album covers, and
even a short promo for RESIDENT EVIL directed by George Romero!
In a slow period at George's, a sequel to the movie WISHMASTER came up, being directed by Jack Sholder (THE HIDDEN), and my old friend Anthony brought me up to Brian Yuzna to redesign the title monster.
I was kindly given a space to work by Roy Kynrim and Jerry Macaluso at SOTA F/X, the shop doing the rest of the effects for the movie, and it would be the start of any odyssey of creative freedom I had never experienced before. I worked there for a long time.
The Djinn from WISHMASTER 2
Animatronic Dolphin for a Japanese Coke product commercial.
He sang in French and was quite a ladies man.
Animatronic Alien Baby from THE PROGENY
HALLOWEEN TOWN &
HALLOWEEN TOWN 2
Storyboards from the Anne Dissolving Sequence in WISHMASTER 3
A gruesome death for Stephen J. Cannell in THE CONTRACT
Stephen J Cannell!
The guy with the typewriter!
Evidence from PROFILER
Debbie Lee Carrington in THE JOURNEY OF ALLEN STRANGE (she was the little sex worker in TOTAL RECALL!)
A caveman for an EMC2 commercial directed by Marcus Nispel.
The Vampire King from Tsui Hark's VAMPIRE HUNTERS
Beth's Happy Face
THE DENTIST 2
Oversized mouth puppet forclose-up dental work.
Louis was in the water for too long.
My roommate Matt Falletta was an extraordinary
suit performer - here he is as a Fango Cover Zombie!
WISHMASTER 3 & 4
we shot them back to back in Vancouver -- always a mark of quality...
TRANSITION to POST PRODUCTION
Around this time I was starting to lose my way in my career. I was growing weary of makeup effects, was dabbling in film composing and sound design with some success but afraid of my suitability, and looking for a change in life. I happened to be be having a beer with my good friend Ted Rae, who told me in confidence that he had just been hired to supervise visual effects on a new Mel Gibson epic.
Turned out it was with my old colleagues at Greg Cannom's, and Mel had hired them to do both makeup and visual effects for THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, a brand new concept in 2001, and after much groveling Ted managed to get me an interview. As I was a makeup effects guy who understood post production, I was hired to work in R&D with Ted and makeup effects supervisor Christian Tinsley to figure out which effects would be practical, which would be digital, and which would be a combination.
Three months later we were shooting in Italy, and I continued on the film for more than eighteen months.
Since I was working in both makeup and VFX departments, I split my time between the extensive application of the flagellation prosthetics and also learning the ropes of VFX on set with Ted. It was the first time I'd been on set doing anything but slinging blood, and an amazing education.
This is actually MY HAND composited in for the nail hammering shot!
Storyboards I made, designed by VFX Supervisor Ted Rae for the extensive flagellation sequence.
As we wound down shooting the full body prosthetics and moved to Rome for the studio portion of the shoot, I began supporting Ted as VFX producer and Second/FX Unit coordinator, and when we got back from Italy I ended up managing the entire VFX department through post production. This included building a VFX facility, a miniature and motion control unit and supporting photography units. Once the show wrapped, I stayed on full time at the newly formulated Captive Audience Productions as the in-house makeup and visual effects producer.
After several years and a number of projects, I decided it was time to take what I had learned and start my own company. This new evolution would focus entirely on the combination of the makeup and visual effects as a single department, and build each team to suit the production rather than have a large shop with costly overhead.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose, makeup and visual effects as a combined department at Captive Audience Productions.
MAKE-UP and VFX COMBINED
At the time, I didn't know that
I KNOW WHO KILLED ME would be my swan song in the effects industry, but I could not have chosen better even if I had.
Regardless of how incredibly proud I was of the quality of the work we were able to create for these movies, the reality was my first real attempt at running an effects company had been disastrous from a business perspective.
I had to level with myself and decide if I was going to continue, which meant competing with much larger shops with far more resources, scrapping for jobs so small they even didn't pay their own bills -- or -- if it was time to consider moving on to something else.
I wanted to be involved in film in a broader sense than the narrow microcosm of special effects, so in 2006 I started supervising post production full time, developed my own projects on the side, and hung up my effects hat for good.
When MGM rebooted the SPECIES series, it was only natural for this to be the first test of this concept - after all, I had played a part in many, many horror franchises that reached a fourth sequel.
I brought in a support team of extremely talented friends to supervise each of the departments, selecting the best from many years of working in both industries -- and turned out some work I am really proud of.
The industry had changed, and so had I. I had been focusing so much on my effects career that I had lost sight of the whole reason I wanted to work in movies in the first place: I wanted to make movies - not just monsters.
Working in special effects was one of the greatest privileges of my life. I got to work with some of the most talented artists on Earth on some truly amazing projects, and take everything I learned along with me. I got to travel to six of the seven continents and learn about the world, enriching my life by incalculable factors.
Most importantly, though, I came away with an impressive collection of unique stories and experiences I will appreciate for the rest of my life. I am always in the deepest gratitude to those that gave me fortunate chances, took the time to teach, that inspired and contributed to the work on this website. I made some things I am incredibly proud of, and an equal amount I'm equally embarrassed of -- but I'm not done, yet.
Since my departure from special effects, I've come to think of filmmaking as a whole, a complete process -- and I love participating in every part of it.
Even though the above story appears to be a relatively linear process, nothing in life is really that cut and dried, with one phase ending cleanly before another one starts -- there had been a multitude of overlaps, and a spectrum of waxings and wanings during that time.
I built a sound room first at SOTA, and then another, bigger one at Captive Audience, and did sound design and music for a dozen movies and other projects.
I participated heavily in development and the formation of a production company both at CAP and one of my own.
And thanks to the generosity of a lot of very talented colleagues and mentors, I even directed my first feature film, FAMILY, as well as several music videos and short projects.
Everything I've learned has helped build an ever-expanding foundation of knowledge, every step turning me into a better filmmaker no matter what role I happen to serve from project to project.
I love making movies.
Thanks for being interested enough to get to the bottom of this page. If you got to this sentence, I am humbled to have made an impression on you somewhere along the line. As an artist, it's the best we can ever hope for.
On to whatever's next!